MADISON - Pheasant broods and production both saw an increase this year, and the Oct. 17 pheasant hunting opener signals another exciting year in the field for upland bird hunters.
Several other seasons open Oct. 17, including bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse in Zone B and Hungarian partridge. The bobwhite quail and Hungarian partridge seasons open at noon, while the ruffed grouse season will open with the start of legal shooting hours.
"This fall should provide some excellent opportunities for Wisconsin's pheasant hunters," said Krista McGinley, acting upland wildlife ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "The number of pheasant broods seen during this year's 10-week brood survey was up 67 percent compared to last year, and pheasant production was up in both the primary and secondary pheasant range."
Hunters are encouraged to review the Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations [PDF] booklet for rules and season structures. For an in-depth look at this year's fall bird hunting seasons, check out the department's 2015 Fall Hunting and Trapping Forecast [PDF].
Pheasants are one of the most sought-after gamebirds in North America, and populations tend to fare well in the agricultural landscape of southern Wisconsin, provided there is sufficient habitat to meet their food and cover needs.
According to McGinley, hunters who wish to pursue wild pheasants should look for landscapes that include a mix of several cover types. Agricultural areas made up of at least 10-15 percent grassland or idle ground with wetlands and/or shrub lands available to provide winter cover are most likely to hold pheasants.
During the 2014 pheasant hunting season, an estimated 46,855 hunters pursued pheasants, with 294,483 birds harvested. Fond du Lac, Jefferson and Kenosha counties were among the top counties for pheasant harvest last year.
On Oct. 17 and 18, the daily bag limit is one pheasant cock, while the possession limit is two. For the remainder of the season (Oct. 19 to Dec. 31), the daily bag limit is two pheasant cocks, with a possession limit of four.
Some public hunting grounds offer both hen and rooster pheasant hunting, and some properties also have 2 p.m. closure times, which are only in effect on weekdays from Oct. 20 to Nov. 2.
A 2015 Pheasant Stamp is required to hunt pheasants statewide. Please note that free leg tags previously required on hen/rooster areas are no longer required. Within those areas, the daily bag limit is one pheasant daily for the first two days of the season, and two pheasants daily for the remainder of the season with a possession limit of twice the daily bag limit.
Hunters who dress pheasants in the field are reminded that the head, a fully feathered wing, or an entire leg must remain attached to the carcass while in the field and during transport.
Pheasant hunting opportunities through the mentored hunting program
This year marks the seventh year of the Mentored Hunting Program, which allows hunters age 10 or older, born on or after Jan. 1, 1973, to obtain a hunting license and hunt without Hunter Education certification. Participants must hunt with a mentor and comply with all the requirements of the program.
Pheasant stocking program
This fall, DNR wildlife biologists plan to release approximately 75,000 game farm pheasants on more than 90 public hunting grounds in Wisconsin. These numbers are similar to recent stocking efforts, and show a significant increase over previous years.
Pheasants raised by conservation clubs through the Day-old Chick Program will be released this fall on both designated public hunting grounds and private lands open to public pheasant hunting. Hunters are reminded to notify landowners before hunting on private property open to public hunting.
Hunters can view a summary of stocked properties on the 2015 Pheasant Stocking Information Sheet, available at dnr.wi.gov, keyword "pheasant."